In 2009 I returned to the United States to a town called Dripping Springs, just west of Austin, Texas. After a twenty-four year career as a Marine spouse I was anxious to get back home to Texas and put down roots. I was going to begin gardening. After moving around the world and staying nowhere long I was ready!
Obviously, gardening takes more than determination. It takes good soil and water–and my area of Central Texas is in short supply of both. Hauling in good soil would prove to be the easy part. It is apparent to anyone who lives here long that Texas has serious water problems made worse by a rapidly expanding and thirsty population and, too often, drought conditions. I wondered more than once why this place was named Dripping Springs. I didn’t see any springs, to the contrary, many local wells were running dry. Therefore, my husband and I made a conscious decision not to draw more water out of the ground, but to use rainwater as our only source of water—we wanted to do our part to conserve the Hill Country water supply.
Gardening was definitely going to be a challenge and I started looking for a low cost and efficient way to irrigate. Of course, there was always daily watering with hose or watering can but I knew there would be days that I would not have the time or I would be out of town. Drip irrigation was another option but I was nervous about using a timer or forgetting to turn off the water and I also wanted to use the water I was collecting in a rain barrel.
I continued to search and came across buried clay pot irrigation or irrigating with an “olla.” By gluing together two clay pots I was able to make an olla but the size was not ideal and filling them was tedious. Nevertheless, during the extreme drought in the summer of 2011, I was amazed when I successfully grew tomatoes, kale, squash and zinnias with very little water. I also found that the ollas allowed me to successfully grow in containers on my patio in full sun without daily watering.